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Why we hate Thatcher

(I’m from Liverpool, and one of the 47 elected councillors who campaigned against Thatcher’s government)
Thatcher was our enemy, she led the forces ranged against working people in the eighties. We engaged her in battle, believing we could win. We lost and were bereft, bereaved and massively damaged. Thatcher hated us as socialists, hated the miners, the trade unions, the Irish. She hated Liverpool. She was a strategist and propagandist for her class globally. Internationally, she befriended Pinochet and greeted Afghan Mujaheddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a “freedom fighter”. He trafficked in opium and threw acid in the face of women who refused to wear the veil (
She was of course a great ally of Ronald Reagan. She went to war with Argentina causing the deaths of thousands for the mineral wealth beneath the South Atlantic and to secure an election victory.
She hated the ANC, labelling Mandela as a “terrorist”. Her reactionary politics extended to victimising Gays, and attempting to control teachers, implementing a reactionary national curriculum. Even mentioning homosexuality in school risked prosecution under Clause 28.

Our struggle in Liverpool too was internationalist. South African exiles worked with us day and night in our campaigns, Chileans, comrades from Pakistan were there too and comrades from around the globe gave us support and solidarity.

What is the history of our enmity with Thatcher? Liverpool was one of her chosen battlegrounds; she was determined to break the organised working class. The trade unions were one battleground, another was the democratically elected Local Authorities, mainly Labour controlled. Labour was in flux. At the end of the Thatcher era, Labour had gone entirely over to the neo-liberal project, but at the outset labour still had working class roots.
We had a history of struggle. Women workers in the Ford factory in Liverpool fought alongside those from Dagenham in the struggle for equal pay. From women in the tobacco, sugar and biscuit factories to the seafarers, shipbuilding, bus drivers and Dockers, being organised at work was as natural as breakfast. Liverpool builders took their trade unionism wherever they went – and they travelled far and wide.
Liverpool has centuries old Black and Chinese Communities. In 1981, parts of Liverpool rioted not once but twice. Unemployment and racist policing spurred the riots. An appallingly racist Police Chief, a friend of Thatcher, used ‘Stop and Search’ relentlessly. The police publicly characterised the black youth as ‘the offspring of African sailors and prostitutes’. They used teargas and drove mini buses at speed against pedestrians as crowd control – David Moore, a disabled man, was killed outside his house by a police van.After the riots Thatcher had full reports on the terrible poverty but instead of intervening she planned “managed decline”.

In the late 70s and early 80s, factory after factory closed despite bitter struggles, creating mass unemployment and deep, grinding poverty with 30-50% unemployment in some areas. Poverty of the kind where people wore shoes with holes in the soles through to their socks, and mothers often went without food to feed their children. Yet in the sixties and early seventies things had been Ok, getting better for most families in Liverpool. This poverty was new, well represented in Boys from the Black Stuff; (the author of this though was won over to Thatcherism.)

The Labour Party had deep and radical routes in Liverpool, and had had marxist currents since its inception, but the city was not ‘safe’ electorally for the party, as other major cities were. The time Labour in Liverpool spent in opposition allowed us to build a radical program well researched and ready to implement. There were organised working class socialists in every area of the city. Some of the youth from the riots moved over into left wing politics. The Militant played a leading role and there were other left wing socialists in the fight. The MPs for the city were working class fighters.
The City Council was previously run by Liberals. They implemented savage cuts years before Thatcher, so spending on services in Liverpool was already at dangerously low levels before she arrived.
The Local Authority manual workers had built a reputation for struggle in the Winter of Discontent (1979). The manual workers were staunch allies and comrades of the councillors; the white collar workers less so.
Labour first won control of the city in April 1983. In March 1984 before the next local elections a huge demonstration took place. There was no legal budget and the possibility of the Government sending in commissioners was very real. The results were an endorsement of our campaigns. We won elections with large turnouts and good results. These results came from detailed canvassing and campaigning. “In a citywide survey, voters were asked what action they thought could be taken to oppose a Tory government takeover: 62 per cent of Labour voters supported demonstrations; 68 per cent occupation by redundant workers; 59 per cent a strike by council workers; 48 per cent a rent and rates strike; 56 per cent supported a refusal by council workers to cooperate with commissioners; and an incredible 55 per cent in favour of a city wide general strike. Moreover, 28 per cent of Liberal voters favoured occupation of council premises by redundant council workers. Even 8 per cent of Tories favoured similar measures – Liverpool was like a tinderbox: one false move from the government and it would explode”
City that dared to Fight. Mulhearn and Taafe
We came into office in 1983 on a programme to create 1000 jobs, to build 1000 houses, and refuse to implement government cuts. “No Cuts in Jobs or Services!” Somehow, the majority of Councillors stood firm. In the first battle with the government after the ‘84 elections they blinked first and we got enough money to balance our books with no cuts. We created the jobs, we built the houses, (many more than 1000) demolished the slums, reorganised the schools, built new Nurseries and a large urban park and we led a huge campaign; quite a lot in a short time. (Building council/social housing has an excellent effect on an area in economic downturn. It creates jobs but it also pulls money into the economy; a young couple moving into a decent home somehow gets the money for a carpet; (either granny buys it from her paltry savings or someone sells some thing or….).We reckoned it was a multiplier of 10 for every pound spent on the building. It was propaganda in bricks and mortar.
In the second year it looked as though the other labour councillors in other parts of Britain would join us in the struggle but under pressure from the press, the government, and above all, from the right wing of the Labour party, one by one they crumbled and made the cuts, leaving only Liverpool and Lambeth to fight alone
In the course of our campaign we held huge demonstrations and built our socialism deep in the communities. At one point Thatcher came to Liverpool and was personally affronted to be met with actual negotiations, rather than to be treated as royalty. “They have no respect for my office” she complained
We failed to win a critical vote for all out strike from the local Authority workers in September 1985. The Tories took courage from this and moved against us.
By defeating the political struggle in Liverpool she also defeated the trade union struggles of Local Authority employees. The employees in the big utilities, gas, electric, water, telecommunications followed.
In her time in office, Thatcher attacked the building workers, print workers, Local Authority workers, miners and the local authorities
The Government and the employers in the late seventies launched an attack on building workers’ trade unions. Many Liverpool building workers are to this day affected by blacklist:
In 1983 the print workers were also under attack from Thatcher and her big business allies. Eddie Shah deliberately opened a non union print works in Winnick Quay in Warrington. The unions, mainly from Liverpool picketed it, but physical the battle that ensued with the police was unprecedented on a picket line. The police were used like soldiers against us. They drove mini buses full speed at us and beat the hell out of those they could. This use of the police against trade unionists became a trade mark of Thatcher. Murdoch claimed that it was Thatcher’s promise to provide police support that was the decider in choosing his battle with the printers. New York had not promised such Government ordered policing. Murdoch gained supremacy in the print media in the UK and eventually to the monstrosity that is Fox news
“Margaret Thatcher was an inspiration in the fight against the print unions” Murdoch
Thatcher re configured British capitalism; she privatised most of industry and de facto broke the unions. She left the NHS to rot. Queues were endemic; my som waited two years to get on a waiting list.The hospital cleaning was privatised so MRS disease became rampant

She gave priority to the finance sector which ballooned in her time. She presided over the de industrialisation of Britain. Labour, like fools, bought her theories and so presided over the huge banking crisis that is still rocking the economy.
Drugs She brought the drugs into our city. It was critical to the success of our enemies that they could convince the world Liverpool was full of thieves and thugs. When we came into office drugs were not a huge problem but they hit the city like a sledge hammer. Drug dealers had links to the Tories especially through one Michael Howard and the local drug lords went directly to the Mujahadin in Afghanistan for their heroin. They had to fight the older gangsters who wanted none of it. The street price of heroin dropped to 25% of its 1981 price by 1984. The police were deep in the drugs trade. It wrecked communities, damaged families, established thugs in charge of areas of the city. Many of us believe it was an actual decision Thatcher to bring drugs into the city.

Miners strike in 1984-5
There were mines north of Liverpool in St Helens and just into Wales at Point of Ayr. They gave their all in fighting for the union, staying on strike for a year. Politically we worked closely with the miners nationally. Locally, women who could ill afford it, would drop off tins of beans and other basics at our Saturday collections as they shopped for their own families and this would be driven down to the miners’ welfare. Thousands of pounds were collected in Bucket collections on a Saturday.
Again the police acted like soldiers fighting the pickets. We marched back to work with the miners at the end of the strike but the industry has been obliterated and with it the rich culture of the organised workers.
Thatcher needed the right wing of the labour party to defeat us. We had the press and media ranged against us but just when we could have faced the Tories down the Labour Party launched its attack on us. That though is another story
47 Councillors were eventually surcharged and removed from office. We were replaced by a second team also committed to no cuts but this was short lived; the new right wing labour party established control.
Our supporters in the city raised our huge “surcharge” in collections. Thatcher was denied the sight of our heads on pikes around the city.

The deepest wound though was Hillsborough. Liverpool FC went to play in Sheffield. 96 died that day, by police incompetence and cruelty. The crush was caused by the police, they refused to call the emergency services, and people died who could have been saved. One of my pupils, at 15 a big lad, was held by his feet above the crush to pull people from the disaster; his was not the only heroism. Then in a cruel conspiracy, Thatcher’s friend’s in the police and the press slandered our dead. The police concocted the story with Downing Street. Murdoch used his rag “The Sun” to claim our people were drunk and to blame, that they urinated on the dead and stole from corpses. The truth that our own people had given their all to save each other was known in the city but across the globe our dead were slandered. Thatcher’s personal slave Ingham was implicated. It has taken 26 years of long hard struggle to get the truth published

So we hate Thatcher because she
• pioneered the new neo liberal economics of greed and de-industrialisation, she wrecked our hospitals, damaged our schools.
• because she used the press and media as a finely tuned tool against us,
• because she made the police fight workers like they were soldiers,
• because she wrecked our communities, destroyed our industries
• because she hated our friends around the world
• She tried to make it a crime to support gay kids in school.
• She colluded in the defamation of our dead.

“ Ding Dong, the witch is dead, the wicked witch, the witch is dead” (as the song says) but we have serious unfinished business with her political heirs.


Introduction to Safe Spaces Policy Discussion

M – AWOL is a feminist group that meets monthly in Next To Nowhere social centre, which is a collectively-run, non-hierarchical activist space. AWOL stands for Angry Women of Liverpool, because sexism gives women many reasons to be angry, but one that particularly brought the group together was the common and frustrating experience of encountering sexism within activist organisations that ostensibly aim to create a fairer society and be anti-oppression..

E- There have been several prominent cases of sexism & sexual harassment/abuse in leftwing and other political organisations in the media recently, with SWP’s protection of a perpetrator reflected in the Lib Dems’ cover-ups, and the Glasgow University Union protecting members who heckled women with sexual insults in a debating competition.
We can pick and choose examples from across the political spectrum, but it’s important to remember that sexism is not limited to those particular organisations – it’s endemic across the left, because its endemic in society.
One positive thing to take away from the recent scandals, though – the evidence is that it’s not that these things are happening more than they used to – it’s that more survivors are speaking out and gathering support to oppose it.

M – When survivors speak out about abusive behaviour by other activists and seek support from their group, too often the response is disbelief and denial. Ranks close around the perpetrator, because it’s hard to comprehend that a good friend or comrade might be capable of doing such harm. Insistence on incontrovertible proof overrides taking any kind of constructive action. Survivors are conflicted because the group and its aims are important to them, but may be led to feel that their legitimate request for support and accountability will divide and undermine it. They may be isolated and ostracised. When women in leftist groups try to challenge or even just discuss sexism, they are often told that to do so is to distract from class struggle. Feminism is dismissed as “identity politics” and sexism will be magically solved by the revolution or can be dealt with after that’s been achieved.

E- AWOL ran 2 successful sessions in the last year on sexism in activism, aimed at raising and discussing these issues with members of a wide range of activist groups across the city. The first session focussed on cultures of sexism, and how we can recognise and expose them. The second looked into how we can ensure our groups have the resources, policies and processes to challenge sexism and other oppressive behaviours.

M – Safer spaces policies and procedures are a proactive approach to preventing and dealing with oppressive or abusive behaviour within a group. A safer spaces policy is a collective agreement on what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable, and that anyone raising problems will be listened to. It’s essential that the policy is backed up by collectively agreed procedures for holding individuals accountable for abusive behaviour. A safer spaces approach is not about scapegoating, blame or punishment but about restoring power to the survivor and asking the perpetrator to take responsibility for their behaviour and understand what was wrong with it.

E- I’ve been involved in establishing safer spaces policies and processes at Next To Nowhere, the AF & elsewhere. Safer spaces not just about sexism, but challenging all oppressive behaviours and creating a safer space for everybody. It can be difficult to even start that conversation, because the first response to the idea that such a policy is needed is defensiveness, and showing evidence of a culture of oppressive behaviour can prompt a group to start defending or accusing individuals and demanding evidence, which completely misses the point. Establishing an organisational culture that can deal effectively with oppressive behaviours within its ranks is always a good thing – it’s good for our activism, good for our internal cohesion and trust within our groups, good for social justice in society. The more that people feel comfortable, safe and included within our organisations, the stronger and more effective we become.

Safe Spaces; discussion at Liverpool International Women’s Day 1

Next to Nowhere Safer Spaces Policy

The Policy in Brief

This policy applies to our meeting spaces, social spaces and online spaces.

If you feel unsafe in one of our spaces due to somebody else’s behaviour, you should contact a Safer Spaces volunteer on . The Safer Spaces team will initiate a process to deal with the behaviour.

If you wish, your complaint will be kept confidential and your identity secret.

If you have been subjected to violence, sexual assault or sexual harassment, the perpetrator will be asked not to use the space while the process is ongoing. The process will be survivor-led, you will be able to choose a mediator and you will not be expected to see or speak with your attacker if you do not wish to do so.

For complaints that do not involve violence, we encourage both/all parties to engage with our Conflict Resolution procedure, and will provide mediation if required. See our Conflict Resolution and Survivor-led procedures for details of how these processes work.

We define the following as abusive behaviours which are not tolerated in this space:

Physical abuse

1. Violence and threat of violence (unless in self defence)

2. Use of force and threat of force (unless minimal to protect users of the space and the space itself)

3. Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment

Verbal abuse

4. Personal insult (insults or aggression towards an individual)

5. Oppressive language (insults or generalisations about a group of people)

7. Verbal Harassment, sexual or otherwise (repeated uninvited personal comments or requests)

8. Verbal abuse in writing (all of the above in written form)

See ‘The Policy in Detail’ (page 2) for a full description of what we mean, and what we do not mean, by each of these behaviours.

See ‘Applying the Safer Spaces Policy’ (page 4) for details of the places and people this policy applies to, and how to enact it.

See ‘Background to the Policy’ (page 5) for more information about Safer Spaces and the reasons why we have this policy.

The Policy in Detail

This section outlines what we mean, and what we don’t mean, by each of the behaviours defined as abusive.

Physical abuse

1. Violence and threat of violence: A deliberate action that is likely to cause somebody physical pain, or the threat of such action, made verbally or implied physically.
This does not mean: Acting in self-defence or in defence of others, as a last resort, in response to a clear and direct physical threat.

2. Use of force and threat of force: Preventing a person from leaving a situation or forcing them into one, either by physically restraining them, blocking their way, refusing to stop following them or refusing to move away from them when asked. Threat to carry out any of these actions.
This does not mean: Preventing somebody from doing violence to themselves or others, or preventing somebody from damaging a space being used collectively, using minimal necessary force.

3. Rape/Sexual assault/Sexual harrassment: non-consenting sex or sexual touching, as well as acting in a sexual way towards somebody, invading their personal space or making sexually suggestive moves or gestures to them without their explicit consent.
This does not mean: Telling somebody that you find them attractive or initiating a flirtation, provided that lack of enthusiastic reciprocation is taken as an unequivocal “NO” with immediate effect, and all attempts at flirtation cease.

Verbal abuse

4. Personal insult: This means insulting terms specifically applied to individuals, or criticism made abusive by being shouted or expressed aggressively, with the outcome of causing hurt, intimidation or humiliation. This applies regardless of whether the outcome was intentional. It is not the intentions of the person who made the remark or the offence felt by the person being insulted that is being addressed here, though these issues will be relevant to any resolution or disassociation process that follows. The behaviour is problematic because it is a means of forcing a point through the use of intimidation rather than reason, and this works to silence dissent and stifle constructive and reasonable discussion.
This does not mean: A ban on insults, compliments or personal remarks in conversation amongst friends who know and respect one another’s limits. However, when engaging in such banter, we should always be aware of our context – where we are, who else is around us and how what we’re saying affects the general atmosphere of the space. It is not enough to assume that everybody within earshot knows our intentions, or even to state that we don’t mean anything by our use of insulting terms, or that they are being used ironically. The trust that is being asked by somebody who uses insulting or aggressive language in jest has to be earned and maintained, and is not automatically due to anybody with good intentions.

5. Oppressive language: This is language used in general conversation, not necessarily in connection with a specific person, that insults, expresses prejudices or reinforces preconceptions about a group of people that are marginalised, disadvantaged or oppressed by mainstream society. This includes (but is not limited to) any racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language. The reason for this is not “political correctness” or fear of criticising people’s values. The real problem with such language is that it normalises prejudices and recreates the very hierarchies that we aim to oppose, as well as creating a space that is unwelcoming to anybody outside of a narrow demographic.
This does not mean: Compiling lists of unacceptable words and phrases in order to catch out the unwary – we don’t need to ban words, we do need to meet challenges to our language without defensiveness, be prepared to apologise for unintentional offence and take the opportunity to reconsider our language, the implications behind it and the impact it can have on others. Free expression ends at the point where it becomes an act of oppression to another.

6. Verbal Harassment, sexual or otherwise.
This includes making unsolicited and inappropriately personal remarks (complimentary or otherwise) about somebody’s appearance or other personal attributes, or making repeated personal requests of them, sexual or otherwise, which have been previously refused, ignored or not met with enthusiasm.
This does not mean: This isn’t a ban on developing sexual relationships or flirting. However, a social centre is not a singles club, and persistently using the space to initiate flirtations is not appropriate, and can be objectifying and demeaning to other users of the space. Develop personal relationships at appropriate times and places, where nobody is likely to feel trapped, coerced, isolated or embarrassed, and make sure anybody you are flirting with has ample opportunity to exit the situation or end the flirtation at any time. It bears repeating: always treat the absence of enthusiastic reciprocation as an unequivocal “no” with immediate effect.

7. Verbal abuse in writing. The same issues often come up in written communications, whether on mailing lists, forums and social networks or personal e-mails and text messages. It can be easier to both misunderstand written communication and to cross boundaries in terms of abusive language, since the things that would normally hold us back in a face-to-face confrontation (e.g. social unease, immediate negative response and awareness of the other party’s distress) are not as pronounced in this medium. The medium also has advantages for debate – many people find it easier to express themselves clearly and coherently in writing, to think their points through and to find the confidence to put their words into a public forum. But the same rules should apply in terms of avoiding personal insult, oppressive language and harassment, and for the same reasons.
This does not mean: That you can’t discuss political issues or dispute things that people have said by e-mail. However, always try to always keep it civil, and if you feel that you are being antagonised, suggest a different format for the discussion (e.g. private correspondence or a meeting). Avoid sending e-mails or messages while you feel upset or angry. Wait until you feel calm and read over your response, thinking of every phrase you have used in terms of the way you would feel to see it applied to yourself or your friends. Always address the points that you disagree with, rather than the person who has made them (or the kind of person who you believe makes such points). Don’t assume that you know somebody else’s opinions or motives beyond those that they have expressed unambiguously. You can only argue with what somebody has said, not what they might have been thinking. Argue with a view to developing everybody’s ideas, including your own, rather than attempting to defeat the opposing view or force a retraction. There are no individual winners or losers, only productive discussions and destructive ones. People very rarely back down from an opinion once they have expressed it publicly in writing. Accept that, even when you do persuade somebody to change their mind, they probably won’t admit it publicly, and you may never know about it.

Applying the Safer Spaces Policy

This section explains how to use the safer spaces policy.

What are our “spaces”? Where does this apply?
This policy should be considered to apply wherever members of the Social Centre collective meet together, be it at the social centre itself or in another space. It applies to both meetings and social events. It also applies to our online spaces: the mailing lists, Facebook pages and even our private communications with other members of the collective. It is not OK for us to abuse one another just because it’s a personal e-mail rather than the mailing list, or a party rather than a meeting.

Who does this apply to?
This applies to everybody who uses the social centre: collective members, their friends and guests, visitors and attendees. Some of the behaviours listed shouldn’t be considered acceptable by a member of the collective (or anybody else) at any time, to anybody, e.g. sexual assault, or sexually or racially charged verbal abuse. This behaviour makes the space around the person displaying it unsafe for everybody and reinforces an oppressive culture, even if the behaviour is aimed at people with whom we are in direct confrontation, such as the police or members of fascist organisations.

How do I enact the policy?
Contact a member of the Safer Spaces team on to begin a process to deal with a behaviour you have experienced. The processes are outlined in our Conflict Resolution and Survivor-led Processes document.
You will be offered anonymity and confidentiality for all complaints, and given the opportunity to nominate trusted members of the collective to mediate for you in any process that follows (though you are also welcome to speak for yourself directly if you prefer).
Complaints involving physical violence, rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment will be dealt with through a survivor-led process, and need not involve any members of the collective who the survivor(s) have not nominated. Anybody who has been named as a perpetrator of these or other violent and serious abuses will be asked not to enter the social centre or post to its lists while the process is ongoing.
Complaints not involving violence will be dealt with through the Conflict Resolution procedure, and both/all parties will be encouraged to communicate their concerns in constructive ways – with mediation, if required – with a view to restoring the ability to work together effectively in a space safe for all concerned.

Background to the policy

This section outlines what the policy is for.

What are safer spaces and why do we need them?

A safe (or safer) space is somewhere where people can feel that they’re not likely to face violence, harassment, intimidation or bullying. It is not about having to adhere to a dominant ideology, but it is about not tolerating the use of violence, harassment or intimidation, even in the name of “free expression” or “open debate”. Safer spaces are not about trying to forbid or suppress conflict, they are concerned with allowing it to happen constructively, while ensuring that it doesn’t lead to people getting hurt, marginalised or silenced.

When we organise non-hierarchically, we’re working in an environment that we haven’t been socialised for, and we need to think about what that means for the ways in which we control our own behaviour or influence each other’s. We live in a society that imposes limits on conflict from above, allowing only state sanctioned violence and characterising as aggression only resistance to state laws. Capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism and a multitude of other interacting systems of oppression are all a part of the world we live in. We’ve been shaped by these systems, and our conscious rejection of them is not enough to make them disappear from either our organisations or our own attitudes. We need safer spaces, not because we think that we can build a little slice of utopia free from oppression and hierarchy, but because we know that we can’t, and so we need ways of recognising and dealing with those oppressions when we find ourselves facing them from friends and comrades.

Since we reject state laws, we need to set our own benchmarks for reasonable behaviour and for dealing with unreasonable behaviour. The safer spaces policy and the conflict resolution/disassociation procedure are our means for doing this. The safer spaces policy is a set of definitions of behaviours that should be avoided and that, if they occur, may require the use of the conflict resolution and survivor-led processes. These are sets of guidelines agreed upon as a means for dealing with situations that have made the space in which we organise unsafe.

But don’t we already know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour? Can’t we just be sensible?

In reality, once a conflict is underway it is difficult for anybody involved to talk about the behaviours displayed in isolation from the people who displayed them. We end up defending or attacking individuals rather than talking about why an action was, in itself, right or wrong. A pre-agreed set of definitions allows us to look at our conflicts a little more objectively.

When somebody is angry, they tend to feel justified in whatever they’re doing – that’s one of the side effects of anger. Another is that people witnessing it often feel intimidated. It is easy to take a reasonable criticism as a personal slight if there is no pre-existing policy to justify the criticism. It is also easy to be intimidated out of making a necessary challenge to somebody’s behaviour without some pre-existing objective policy to justify your concerns.

These guidelines are not designed to prevent disagreements, shut down normal argument or any kind of constructive verbal confrontation, but to discourage situations in which people are intimidated out of such discussions.

The point of naming these behaviours isn’t that anybody who displays them in any way at any time can be instantly banned; the conflict resolution and survivor-led processes should make sure that responses to conflicts are proportionate. We name these behaviours in the Safer Spaces policy so that we have an agreement on what we can feel justified in challenging, so that anybody challenging these behaviours doesn’t have to feel alone or risk dismissal of their concerns, and so that those who might be tempted to use these behaviours as a shortcut to making their point will think twice about the possible negative consequences.

This does not mean that any behaviour not specifically covered by this policy cannot be challenged. If a behaviour is problematic, it should be dealt with through the same procedures as a breach of this policy, and if we are all agreed that the behaviour is problematic we should expand the policy to include it.


Women as Creative Agents for Change; Val Walsh

International Women’s Day, Liverpool 2013:

Women as creative agents for change.[1]


Val Walsh[2]


Each year at this time, we take stock:

  • we register issues (continuing and/or new) in women’s lives
  • identify obstacles to women’s dignity, equality and progress
  • we highlight and publicise campaigns
  • celebrate achievements and progress
  • take pleasure in women’s existence and company
  • and acknowledge unfinished business.

We take in the changing context (locally, nationally, internationally) of women’s lives and feminist activism; the impact of our efforts to improve women’s life chances and opportunities; as well as public, political and media attention and attitudes.

  • We continue to draw attention to issues of safety, security, opportunity and risk (at home, on the street, in the workplace and in war zones).
  • We document resistance, misrepresentation, distortion and denial with regard to women’s lives, and the impact of gender power relations and gender issues for women’s health and wellbeing; for women’s empowerment and self-determination; for recognition and reward in the public domain, via economic equality and social justice.
  • We track the unsatisfactory status of women in societies, including our own.

The feminist agenda, regarding what is missing, what is wrong and what women want to see changed, can seem like a never-ending, unchanging ‘to do’ list from one year to the next, accompanied by the sense that gender issues, gender inequalities, even Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), have become the normalized, invisible backdrop to everyday lives and politics. So prevalent, so widespread, so embedded within corporate, consumer and political culture and practices, including ‘entertainment’ and ‘comedy’, that their ‘volume’ has become turned down to a whisper: they have almost lost their shock value, lost their power to disturb and outrage, even girls and women themselves.


2012 disrupted this ‘more-of-the-same’ scenario.

Last summer, following a local women’s meeting at the Social Centre about sexism in activism, I found myself reflecting on this issue and tracking the media evidence of misogyny across society over a period of c10 weeks from the end of June. There was no lack of grim evidence, on almost a daily basis. This process culminated in my writing two linked essays.[3]


And then the Saville scandal broke, and took everyone’s breath away. Suddenly, 2012 looked like a breakthrough, as the media was forced to expose a period of sexual abuse and violation that covered the whole of recent history in the UK: from the 1960s to the present (which is still unfolding as criminal investigations continue and arrests are made).


These revelations confirmed the role of institutionalised misogyny and sexism as apparently inherent to hetero-patriarchal masculinity and normative gendered relations: perpetrators and powerful authority figures (those running institutions and organisations) shared a set of values and attitudes that allowed vulnerable children and women, variously corralled within those institutions (the NHS, the BBC, secure residential units), to be sexually abused and exploited, in silence, then ignored and discarded.


The culture of these organisations is at last open to scrutiny, not just the repellent behavior of individual men (mainly white heterosexual men in positions of authority and power). Within these misogynist organisational environments, victims were fodder for celebrity male egos, and those ‘chiefs’ and ‘celebrities’ thought they were fireproof, untouchable. And for too long they were, despite women’s testimony over the years: bearing witness by speaking up; and the activism, research, writing and theory of feminists since the 1970s.

We were too often ridiculed and demonized; accused of being ‘humourless’, ‘ugly’, ‘man-hating lesbians’. But we should be proud of our achievements during these years nonetheless, for these efforts, our knowledge production and campaigning, have had an impact, have changed society and its practices (just not enough). The evidence is now in and irrefutable, and provides society with the motivation and political will to make changes. Experienced and committed feminists are everywhere, and have been setting up organisations and projects to support and improve women’s life chances over many years (usually on a shoestring). There is no going back.


A feminist turning of the tide.

Since the Saville case broke, silence and denial are being exposed and overtaken by the collective voices of victims of historical Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). And every individual voice empowers another woman to speak out, thereby building up the picture of hidden atrocities, and the power wielded by these men within the settings that allowed them to flourish, dominate and abuse, without fear or challenge.


The latest examples of this culture of ‘acceptable sexism’ and gendered dominance are the number of women Lib Dems who have come forward with charges of inappropriate sexual behavior by the Lib Dem’s former Chief Executive, Lord Rennard, allegations that conjure a pattern of behavior, occurring over a number of years, which was not previously investigated by the Party. The child abuse claims alleging the serial abuse of boys from the 1970s by the Lib Dem MP, Cyril Smith, similarly demonstrate reluctance/refusal by Lib Dem leaders (including at least one senior woman) to investigate sexual predators and perpetrators within their own ranks. Preserving Party decorum and the reputation of the rich and powerful within the organisation kicked victims’ complaints into the long grass, where victims were expected to lie low; to put up and shut up: forever.


The avalanche of accusations and evidence over the last few months bears out feminist critique of the public domain (by both men and women) since the 1970s, and provides an opportunity at last for a coherent and determined strategy to change the status quo and to dismantle organisational values and cultures that have for too long effectively sanctioned VAWG.


The issues of complicity and cover-up, the role of cultural and organisational power (intimidation, coercion, male dominance, bullying and fear as organisational tools) are now out in the open. The complicity of powerful men (for example, within the BBC, the NHS, the Catholic Church), and vulnerable women (for example, Saville’s mother, other family members, and women staff in Saville’s chosen sites of abuse) are now on record.  And it becomes clear that their complicity with predators and perpetrators has been shaped and condoned by a wider misogynist culture, society itself. This body of evidence widens the debate beyond individuals and individual organisations, providing a basis for understanding and taking action to change these ‘normal’ gendered power relations and practices.


Internalising this reality, the values and behaviours that demean, intimidate, disadvantage, damage and destroy girls and women, has been variously part of every girl and woman’s upbringing, no matter what our age or background. Going public about these issues was always hard, nerve-racking, even taboo: a high risk move that could lose you your job or position, and/or your reputation; as well as court the censure of other, non feminist women. Not forgetting that a misogynist, patriarchal, heterosexist society trains us as girls and women to discipline and attack each other, and to compete for heterosexual men’s attentions and approval. We forge our friendships, love and political alliances across and in spite of these coercive and destructive pressures.


Next steps.

Now there is the opportunity for a better informed, more emboldened feminist conversation to develop amongst women, and between women, men and society’s institutions and organisations. For men have also been disciplined and damaged by these coercive practices, and some men have been changed during these years through their contact with feminist values and critique; and feminists! For example, mothers, colleagues, friends, co-activists.


I suggest that the events and evidence of these few short months are game-changers. They provide a springboard for us to work together as women, across our differences, together with feminist-inspired men, to make sure the tide does not turn back, and that misogyny and heterosexism at last get named and shamed as at the core of women’s disadvantage in society and as obstacles to humane relations between women and men, boys and girls, whatever our sexual preference.


We must make sure that all those historical victims did not suffer in silence in vain. It is up to us, as survivors, to secure a legacy of gender-based social and political change across society, including our city, Liverpool. Together we can do this.                                                                                                          











[1] This is the transcript of a speech delivered at The Black-E, Liverpool (09 03 2013) after the IWD march through the city centre.

[2] Val Walsh is an educationist and study coach; a writer, journalist and poet; and a member of Merseyside Women’s Movement, the Liverpool Women’s Network, Liverpool Friends of the Earth and Liverpool’s Keep Our NHS Public campaign. From 2006-2011, she was Chair of the Duncan Society, Liverpool’s public health and wellbeing debating society.

[3] ‘Sexism and activism: what’s the problem?’ and ‘Thinking through and beyond “sexism”: reflections on the challenge for the “Left” (and willing others)’ [10 10 2012].

Sonia Metralia from Greece on how women are affected by Austerity


The feminist tour which took place recently in a dozen towns and cities in France enabled women from Portugal, Spain, Greece, Britain, Hungary and France to outline an initial overview of the human damage caused by creditors who stand in the way of human rights, spreading humanitarian crisis and chaos throughout Europe. The evidence of these women represents an alarm call, warning us of what we can all soon expect. Below is the text of Sonia Mitralia’s contribution, translated from French into English by Vivien Walsh.

The only hope:

Active solidarity and resistance of all women together!

By Sonia Metralia, member of the Women’s Initiative Against Debt and Austerity Measures, Greece, Greek Committee against Debt; and the International Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt.

In Greece, we women are suffering the effects of an unprecedented and historic decline in our rights and our daily lives.

And all of a sudden we have something that sums up this daily life in Greece in the days of the Troika[1]: extreme insecurity and destitution, repression and dependency, violence, exclusion from healthcare and …. despair!

Despair because the Troika and their local lackeys sadistically persist, over and over again, with their catastrophic and unproductive policy which has already demolished the Welfare State in less than three years, which has blown apart the economy and which has brought about the recession and mass unemployment.

The statistics on debt are stark: public debt was $299 bn in 2009, or 129.3% of Gross Domestic Product, before the agreement with the Troika. According to the figures, in the year 2011 it went above $368 bn or 169% of GDP, and according to some calculations it could go above 200% in 2020.

How can we avoid despair when the overwhelming majority of the population, both men and women, are suffering the disastrous effects of these policies, which are not reducing the debt but are pushing us further and further, further and further into humanitarian crisis and chaos, and all for ….. nothing!


The life of women in a Greece ruled by the Troika.

First of all the right to work has collapsed. The long arm of national debt has reversed the historical trend, dating back to the 1980s, of a continued improvement in women’s place in the labour market. From now on, it will not be a temporary but an historic decline. Before the crisis, women’s unemployment had risen to 12%; from now on it will be rising officially to 29-30%. And for young women of 15-24, it has reached 61% … a real catastrophe for them, faced with the realisation that they have no future! From now on there will be vastly more people (above all women) who are inactive than active in the labour market. And a third of the women who work are unpaid. In supermarkets, sales staff are often paid in kind.

As for the right to choose motherhood freely, or to decide not to have children : it is a dead letter. What an irony of history! We have fought for 40 years against being forced into having children, but now they are preventing us from having them if we want to ….

Poverty, destitution and insecurity have already brought about a 15% drop in births. Three million Greeks without health insurance have to pay for private and commercialised health care from now on.  

For example , maternity care has not been free for a long time, but now it is very, very expensive: €800 for a normal delivery and €1600 for a caesarean.

Here is what the Greek Doctors’ Association – which is quite conservative – said about this in a recent statement: “Every day there is the drama of pregnant women arriving for caesareans, which they cannot have because they cannot pay.” “So then women have to give birth in the street, running the risk of dying or giving birth to babies with disabilities”.

Furthermore, even those who can pay “give birth in certain hospitals without a gynaecologist present, because there are not enough staff due to budget cuts”!…


The holdup of the century!

But there is worse than that. The whole Greek welfare state has been well and truly destroyed. The result is that all public services previously provided by the state, from nurseries to old people’s homes, as well as medical care, are now the responsibility of ….. women in the home! And all for free, without even the recognition that this is unpaid work. Work of a truly astronomic value, which we could quite reasonably call the holdup of the century!

The enormous sum of money thus saved by this typically neo-liberal operation goes directly into paying off the debt. Why? Because, according to neo-liberal dogma, the absolute first priority has to be the satisfaction of creditors and bankers, and not the basic needs of the citizens!

Have you ever heard any of this discussed anywhere ? No, no-one has bothered to mention this colossal heist of hundreds of billions of Euros.

So the fact is that the primary or main victims of this operation, that is, we the women, are single-handedly able to speak, denounce and above all mobilise and fight against this daylight robbery. For it is not just a question of more and more unpaid work for us, but also and above all it is about a generalised attack on the rights we have won over the previous 40 years of struggle.

But there is more. Such a privatisation of public services made possible by the unpaid labour of women, has to be justified ideologically for it to be accepted. That is why women have to be presented as “naturally” dedicated to their families, to their husbands and children, and to their domestic work in the home.

Why? Because, they say, that is their “mission” or “role in life”; the role of women is to be the servants of others, and in this case, to be the substitute for the soon-to-be completely dismantled welfare state.

You know very well the name of this ideological packaging, this ideological pretext: its name is patriarchy, the worst kind of good old patriarchy which now goes hand in hand with the most recent and at the same time most barbaric expression of neo-liberal capitalism…..

This marriage of capitalism and patriarchy translates into something concrete: that we have just one choice, which is to serve! To serve, take care of, feed, and clean for our kids, and old people, and for sons, brothers, and husbands on the dole: all those who are no longer able to have their own homes but have to come together again in the same house.

But is this simply a question of “coming back home”? Of a return to the fifties, before the achievements of feminism, to a model of the family based on the couple where the man works in the factory and the woman in the home? We cannot exclude the possibility that the crash, with a society of the unemployed who have no role in society, in fact where there is no civil society, is giving rise to a deterioration of the family to an even more archaic form of communal life, or a kind of feudal system based on obligation and tribute, where individual rights no longer exist at all for us.

What is this waste of human life about?

Why is all this happening? Because money has to be prioritised to go automatically to pay the creditors!

But, you are going to ask, why? What is the logic of obeying these policies which spread wretchedness and destroy a whole society? Why this waste of human life? 

Our response is categorical: because we are no longer allowed to prioritise meeting the needs of citizens, but instead have to meet those of the creditors and bankers!

Yes, it was in February 2012 that the Euro group[2], meaning those who actually rule Europe, imposed on Greece not only that it write into its Constitution the absolute priority of paying off the debt from the bail-out; but also the astounding measure of establishing a blocked bank account in Luxembourg where the so-called “aid” from Europe to Greece would be deposited….. that Greece cannot touch.

This constitutes a real counter-revolution in global interests. Why? Because from time immemorial up to this fateful February 2012, international law had been based on the inviolable principle of the “State of Necessity” or state of emergency which requires governments to give priority to meeting the fundamental needs of their citizens, even if this runs counter to their obligations to investors. In other words, priority should go to health, education, basic benefits for those in poverty, etc. What Europe has imposed on Greece is not just Greece’s problem: it concerns everyone!

Why? Because it constitutes a precedent that aims to destroy the principle of the “State of Necessity” or state of emergency[3], and its replacement by the principle that creditors take priority, no matter what.

It is as though they are cynically saying that we can die for all they care, because the only thing that concerns them is to serve the interests of the creditors and nothing else.

And what about the future of democracy in Greece and in Europe?

However, the monstrous impoverishment of the Greek people is not the only result of these policies. In reality they are also in the process of killing off the future of democracy in Greece and in Europe. They are giving birth to a world of blind violence, a world without rules, a jungle where the worst is possible. This is a world in which the ground is being prepared for the extreme right and fascists to launch their attacks on our freedoms, against national and sexual minorities, and to promote their hatred of women and attacks on women’s rights.



Will Greece also become the laboratory in which totalitarian violence is developed and refined?  Not only are we living a sort of life of acclimatisation to violence and indifference to human life, but this is also a political situation which is becoming more and more violent in the sense that victories such as the banning of torture by the state, which is becoming routine, are being called into question.

To win the election in May, several days before it took place, two social democratic ministers (deplorably famous for the savage repression of the demonstrations against the Troika and the dismantling of the health service) staged the despicable spectacle of a virtual public lynching of HIV positive prostitutes (who they thought were foreigners). By putting their photos on the internet and on television, the authorities called on the population to inform on them to have them arrested as women who “represented a health time-bomb”, who were “polluting society with infectious diseases” and killing Greek fathers with AIDS. These measures were voted through by the Greek parliament, and public opinion at the same time became a bit more used to racist and sexist hatred.

On the other hand, a member of parliament from the neo-nazi party “Golden Dawn” attacked two left-wing women members of parliament in the TV studio during the live broadcast of a programme during the election period last spring. This act of violence, instead of arousing indignation and disapproval, on the contrary sparked off a huge wave of popular sympathy which contributed to the electoral success of the “Golden Dawn”, now the third most important party according to all the polls. Describing immigrants as subhuman during a parliamentary debate, these neo-nazis have already been responsible for several assassinations of immigrants, as well as murderous attacks on gypsies, on gays, on left-wing militants, and on national minorities! And obviously, since they advocate restricting access to social services and rights (crèches, food, medical care, solidarity) to Greeks, “Golden Dawn” periodically attacks crèches or even hospitals with the declared objective of throwing out “foreigners” to make room for Greeks!

What can we do before it is too late? How can we resist the curse of neoliberalism and the rise of fascism and totalitarianism? How can we confront the blackmail of debt and nightmare austerity measures? How can we defend ourselves against violence?

First of all, we urgently need not to remain on our own. We need help, active solidarity from the social movements and women’s and feminist  organisations of Europe. Each and every one of us in our respective countries must fight against the same anti-freedom austerity policies developed and applied by the same enemies of us all.

To sum up, all of us must resist together, across national borders.

Yes, we must say it loud and clear : we must build a mass movement of women in Europe against both austerity and the unlawful debt which is the root of our problems.

Sonia Metralia, member of Women’s Initiative Against Debt and Austerity Measures, Greece, Greek Committee against Debt; and the International Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt.


[1]  (Translator’s note) A term used in the Greek financial press to mean the three-way partnership of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank which together bailed Greece out of the debt crisis.

[2] (Translator’s note) The Euro group are the finance ministers of the euro zone, an informal group with no official name (but colloquially called the Euro group) which meets monthly and has political control over the euro currency and related aspects of the EU’s monetary union, such as the Stability and Growth Pact. It meets the day before the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) of the Council of the European Union. It was established at the request of France as a policy co-ordination and consultation forum on euro zone matters.


[3] (translator’s note) in which a government is released from its normal obligations in the interests of the basic survival of the population or its fundamental infrastructure. See for example, Sergey Ripinsky, “State of Necessity: Effect on Compensation”, 15 October 2007.,_state_of_necessity_-_effect_on_compensation_(15_oct_07).pdf  seen 28.01.13


IWD greetings from pakistan Home Based Women Workers Federation


“Happy working women struggle day to all comrades. This day is identified and recalls the courageous women who struggle for just rights and want better and progressive society for all.


As we all know that women’s bravery actions were easily excluded from the history and promoting such things/ideology which show the lower status of women in the society. That literature and things confine and restricted women at home in the name of religion, cultural and custom especially in south Asia. In feudal society, no respect given more than salve to them and in capitalist society women becomes commodity. capitalist society burden on women has been also increased so the violence!


We are living in that kind of society where women face metal, physical and sexual harassment every day on their home and work place just because of that ideology which deep rooted in our society since lone by the religious and capitalists. These ideologies suffocate and paralyze whole society especially the third world.


Our issues are same so the solution is! For which we have to work harder not just for our identity and status but for other women and girls of new generation. This is our dutyOur issues are same so the solution is! For which we have to work harder not just for our identity and status but for other women and girls of new generation. This is our duty to keep our voice raise and fight against the ideology of private properly, together, which leads to our complete and actual emancipation


Long live working women struggle and

Long live workers’ unity


Zerha Khan

General Secretary

Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF)”